How to Set Boundaries with Your Financial Coaching Clients

Here’s the scenario. A new coach is building her financial coaching business and trying to take on beta clients. She has eight people express interest in her coaching, and five schedule a discovery call. After the call, four express interest in financial coaching and being beta clients for a full coaching session. One goes MIA and won’t return calls or emails to book the session. Two book a session but then start to ask about pushing it back immediately after they are scheduled. The fourth one wants to book but not for another six months. This new coach goes from feeling elated about all the interest in her business to feeling downright defeated because she can’t even give a session away. 

If this is you, fear not coach. It’s not about you. It’s about boundaries. 

There could be a lot of reasons this is happening with your potential clients, why they go from so excited to evasive. They might be scared to get coaching. They might need buy-in from their spouse. They might have trouble managing their own calendar. Regardless, you can’t anticipate all of the reasons why someone might commit and then immediately back out or ghost you entirely.

The only way to counteract wishy-washy client behavior is by setting clear boundaries.

As a business owner, you’ll quickly learn that boundaries are one of the fundamentals of running a business where you provide a service to other people. But they are uncomfortable. Boundaries may make you feel like you’re being uptight. Or you may create them thinking they are all well and good but you won’t really need them. Your people are great! Your business is boundary free zone.

The thing about boundaries is you hope you’ll never have to enforce them but if you do, you’ll be glad they are there. They serve to protect you, your business, your time, and your energy. They prevent you from feeling frustrated by or even taken advantage of by the same people you’re trying to help. 

Setting clear boundaries is as good for you as it is your clients because clear expectations don’t often lead to misunderstandings. 

I know for me, not setting boundaries or not enforcing a boundary I have set comes from a few different places. 

  1. I don’t want to make a hassle or it feels like an inconvenience to have the conversation that enforces a boundary.
  2. I’m naively optimistic and think it won’t be necessary. I think, “My clients are all great. I want to help them and they totally get what I’m about and what I’m trying to do.”
  3. I don’t want to offend the person because enforcing a boundary can make you feel like a big meanie. 

But then something happens and I realize my business is out of whack because lines have been crossed and boundaries are no longer clear because I failed to communicate. I quickly realize:

  1. I didn’t want the hassle, yet I am most certainly hassled by NOT enforcing the boundary 
  2. Setting boundaries is always necessary (LOL)
  3. I feel offended because I’m being taken advantage of or inconvenienced. 

The good news is even if you’re so far from the boundary you set that you can’t see it, there are always ways to walk yourself back to it. 

Let’s go back to the example from the beginning with the disappearing beta clients. The coach here still has three clients who are looking to schedule a beta session. Instead of saying “Yeah, sure six months from now works” or “Sure, we can push this session back a couple of weeks. Whatever works for you!” the coach can try setting a boundary with new deadlines. She could say: 

“I know making financial changes can be intimidating at times, but I also know how much it can help someone feel better about their money. I’m really hoping to help my beta clients in the next 14 days. Could you schedule your session within that time frame? Let me know. If I don’t hear from you before then, I’m going to offer the opportunity to someone else.” 

You don’t assign blame. You don’t show hurt. You approach the situation with compassion and empathy while still setting a very clear expectation on the clients part. 

In the meantime, even if these clients do schedule, it would be helpful to start looking for other beta clients if you want to hit a certain number of free coaching sessions before you take on paid clients. The numbers can diminish quickly. When I took on betas, I had ten people express interest, five people actually completed my application, three people got on a call, and one person moved forward with coaching. So sometimes you have to get a lot of reach-outs in order to actually help someone.

And that’s ultiemately what we’re trying to do as financial coaching. So help your clients and help yourself by setting some clear boundaries.